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What We Learned from the Spurs win over the Grizzlies

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An easy night in Memphis proves that the Spurs are good! (sometimes)

San Antonio Spurs v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s hard to know what to make of a game where the Spurs shot 67% from the field against a team that is so focused on the future that they barely register in the present. Since the dawn of time, running the “make a whole bunch of shots” strategy has been a pretty solid way to win basketball games so if the Spurs are planning on being one of the most efficient offensive machines in NBA history for the rest of the season then I’m all for it. If not, well, then this night wasn’t really anything more than a single incredible Christmas present in an otherwise gift-free season.

That’s a pretty dark way to open things up after a win, hold on, let me try this again.

LaMarcus Aldridge dropped 40 points on Monday night, showing off his full range of abilities in an absolute thrashing of the Memphis Grizzlies. People who say the era of front court guys taking over games from the post clearly haven’t watched the tape on LaMarcus when he goes ballistic like this. He’s as good as anyone in the league when he’s able to get in a groove and surely, surely, contending teams must be falling all over themselves to throw talented young guys and draft picks towards the Spurs in order to get LaMarcus on their rosters the second PATFO mercifully pulls the plug on this dead end season.

Got dark again at the end there again, didn’t it? Hmm, let me try turning it off and then turning it back on and we’ll see if that helps.


The Spurs had every opportunity to blow this game and they didn’t. The shooting barrage had cooled off a bit in the 2nd quarter and this young Grizzlies team started making a run. A dazzling Ja Morant started to put together a quick little one-man highlight reel and the San Antonio’s frustratingly porous defense was springing leaks left and right. We’ve seen it happen before and, as the big lead shrank down into single digits, it seemed like we were saddling up for another night of trading punches throughout the second half before finding a new and exciting way to clank a 20-footer off the side of the rim at the buzzer.

That didn’t happen though! They pulled it together, held the young pups at arm’s length, and ground out a nice comfortable win almost like the days of old. It was encouraging to see that the Spurs still know how to do that somewhere in there. This season has been frustrating at times and watching scintillating young talent like Morant is almost enough to make you wish that maybe, just maybe, the Spurs would dip their toes back in the lottery game and get them a few of those high flyers for themselves, you know? But, no, no this win was better. Wins are good. Now we’re one step closer to earning our rightful place as the 8th seed in the west. Maybe we won’t get a fun lottery pick, but at least we’ll take like, I dunno, Game 2 off the Lakers and get to hear everyone in the media go, “look, you just can’t count out a Popovich coached team under any circumstances” right before LeBron goes supernova and puts this season to bed once and for all.

Woof. Sorry gang, not sure what’s happening here.

I spend a lot of time advocating for keeping a positive attitude about watching sports. None of this stuff is that important in the grand scheme and the reality is that you get out of it what you put in. Being a fan of a team means being a part of a spirited community that happens to all be cheering for the same jersey and that can be an invigorating and wholesome practice. You get to live out the highs and lows of the human experience night after night without any of the messy business of the actual lows of the human experience. The wins are fun, the losses are annoying, but the real win was the friends we made along the way, right?

I strongly believe that getting too upset about sports is silly and I do my best not to do it under any circumstances. Cynicism though? Buddy, I’ll get cynical about sports until the cows come home. A healthy dose of cynicism is the spice of life and, even though this win was largely a good time, I just couldn’t help feeling a little Grinch-ish watching my buddy Marco tear it up out there in the 4th quarter of a blowout while our modicum of exciting young talent looked on from the bench. Anytime you can get more minutes for an aging gunslinger during an insignificant game, you just gotta do it.

If I took anything away from this game, I think it’s that I now feel fully ready to embrace the idea of meaningful losses over meaningless wins. Wins like this are empty calories. Nothing changed. Nothing moved. Monday night was the same old Spurs except they just happened to be hitting their shots. I think we’re smart enough as fans to know that and I think that’s why this win just didn’t sit right with me.

I want to lose with purpose. I want to try new things and new people and new plays. I want to lose games because Lonnie Walker IV just missed a clutch three or because we wanted to see what DeMar DeRozan playing center looked like. I want to get weird with it. I want the losses to be stimulating test runs for the future and I want the wins to be happy byproducts. This doesn’t have to be hard.

I just want to lose games because we’re building a new structure, and not because the old homestead is falling apart.

Takeaways:

  • Apparently Monday’s shooting percentage was the third-highest in the history of the franchise. The HISTORY of the franchise. That is fully bananas. This stat alone drives home a number of things for me. Number 1, the NBA is just super weird right now. Number 2, last night was an anomaly of the highest order and if you weren’t already inclined to consider it an outlier when analyzing this season then maybe you just don’t believe in Data.
  • I know I was mad up there about Marco getting minutes in the 4th but, look, those minutes happened and there’s nothing we can do about it now so we might as well bathe in the warm waters of a Marco Watch Jr. real quick. Did you see him put the soul of Ja Morant through the floor of the FedEx Forum via the simple use of rudimentary back-cut technology? Goodness, it was obscene. Obviously, he had to engage in his little shot fake first. You know, the one where he just puts the ball up over his head? Yea. But then he gives it up to LaMarcus for a quick give-and-go and proceeds to move faster than any man alive. He goes to sprint baseline and keeps his little paw on Morant’s shoulder as if to say, “here, bud, let’s go lay on the floor together” before completely ghosting back out behind the arc and leaving his man swimming in hardwood. As is the case with all great Marco Belinelli moves, whether or not he made the ensuing shot is irrelevant and I honestly couldn’t tell you if this shot went in because I black out after the cut every single team I try to watch it.
  • TIM DUNCAN FIT WATCH: There were no pictures taken of Timmy’s fit last night. Well, maybe that’s not true. A more accurate thing to say is that no pictures of Timmy’s fit exist because even if someone did take a picture of it the picture likely died of boredom before anyone got to see it. He’s donned the black suit jacket, grey dress slacks combo before and I’ve hated it then and I hate it now and I think I will probably hate it tomorrow. It’s boring, it’s unimaginative, and it belies the true talent for for fashion that I believe courses through the veins of my close, personal friend Tim Duncan (please don’t fact check that). The irony that this color combination is literally the Spurs color scheme is not lost on me, but I don’t have the strength to delve into the deep levels of crippling self loathing necessary to fully appreciate this ironic moment. We’re going to continue to pretend this fit didn’t happen, light a few candles, and pray for colors. F
San Antonio Spurs v New York Knicks
The dreaded Grey, White, Black combo from a few weeks ago
Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images